Abstract: This study examines the differences and commonalities of how populist parties of the left and right relate to democracy. The focus is narrowed to the relationship between these parties and two aspects of democratic quality, minority rights and mutual constraints. Our argument is twofold: first, we contend that populist parties can exert distinct influences on minority rights, depending on whether they are left-wing or right-wing populist parties. Second, by contrast, we propose that the association between populist parties and mutual constraints is a consequence of the populist element and thus, we expect no differences between the left-wing and right-wing parties. We test our expectations against data from 30 European countries between 1990 and 2012. Our empirical findings support the argument for the proposed differences regarding minority rights and, to a lesser extent, the proposed similarities regarding mutual constraints. Therefore we conclude that, when examining the relationship between populism and democracy, populism should not be considered in isolation from its host ideology.
Keywords: Europe; liberal democracy; minority rights; mutual constraints; political inclusion; populism